Bulk Store: A Less-Waste Store That is Gaining Popularity Worldwide

What is a Bulk Store?

If Indonesian people are familiar with wholesale store whose concept is to sell their products in a large volume/size, then bulk store is what we might call as the next level of wholesale store. Bulk stores do not only sell goods in bulk, but more importantly is that they also eliminate the plastic packaging that usually comes with the goods that we purchase. Therefore, customers who want to shop at bulk stores should bring their own containers. Another available option is for the store to let us borrow their containers, which we can return during the next transaction. This option usually requires the customers to pay a certain amount of deposit that will be paid back when the containers are returned.  

Example of how customers use their own containers when shopping at Bulk Store. Source: trashisfortossers.com
Example of how customers use their own containers when shopping at Bulk Store. Source: trashisfortossers.com

In general, this is how bulk stores operate:

  1. The supplier packs their products in large containers. After that, they deliver it to the designated stores.
The interior look of a bulk store. Source:: therogueginger.com
The interior look of a bulk store. Source:: therogueginger.com

2. Upon arriving, there are two choices in receiving the products: the bulk store can either receive it along with its container, or the bulk store can transport the products into another container of their own. Both ways aim to eliminate the waste packaging that were usually inevitable in other conventional stores.

3. The products or goods that are sold in bulk stores are put into large containers. For example, liquid goods such as oil and honey are usually put inside a glass tube or dispenser, whereas variety of nuts are encased in glass jars. Customers will need to bring their own containers in order to buy the products.

4. Besides food ingredients and seasoning, bulk store also sells daily necessities such as shampoo and soaps that are eco-friendly in terms of both the packaging and material. Usually, the products are homemade and contain natural ingredients rather than chemical ones. In addition, the packaging of those products is either paper or cloth rather than plastics, with as little packaging as possible.  

Soap bars sold in Green bulk store, Canada. Source: wastelandrebel.com
Soap bars sold in Green bulk store, Canada. Source: wastelandrebel.com

Bulk Store’s Payment System

Another concept that might look unfamiliar with those who never went to bulk stores are the measurement and payment system. Since the products are not packaged separately, the unit of measurement that is used are based on either weight or volumes, usually in grams, kilograms or liters. With the said system, it is highly important for consumers to know both the size and weight of their empty containers. For instance, an empty glass jar weighs 500 grams, and it can contain up to 150 ml of honey or other liquid goods.

Example of how shampoo and body care products are sold in large glass bottles. Sumber: www.westcoastrefill.com
Example of how shampoo and body care products are sold in large glass bottles. Sumber: www.westcoastrefill.com

The knowledge regarding our own containers’ measurement will come in handy during the payment process, since customers only need to write down the items’ code and the amount that they bought based on the measurement unit. Then, the cashier will multiply the figures in order to find out the amount that you need to pay. Moreover, goods that are sold based on its weight (either grams or kilograms) by first deducting the weight of your empty containers from the total weight. That way, customers pay for the actual weight of the products instead of being mixed up with the containers’ weight.  

Inspirations from Bulk Stores Abroad

Even though the existence of bulk stores are still very rare in Indonesia, the concept of zero-waste store is gaining more popularity abroad, especially in developed countries. Here are some of the examples.

Unverpackt Kiel: Germany’s FIrst Bulk Store

In German, the word Unverpackt means “unpackaged”. This store  is established in February 2015 in Kiel, Germany, almost 5 years ago. The store is owned by a woman named Marie Delaperrière, and she was inspired by none other than Bea Johnson, a worldwide public figure who became one of the pioneers towards a zero-waste lifestyle. Unverpackt Kiel became the first ever bulk store to be opened in Germany, and ever since the establishment of this store, the concept of bulk store is getting popular among the public. Six months after the establishment of the first store, Unverpackt opens a branch in Berlin called Original Unverpackt, which also receive positive responses.

Unverpackt Kiel, the first ever bulk store in Kiel, Germany. Source: wastelandrebel.com
Unverpackt Kiel, the first ever bulk store in Kiel, Germany. Source: wastelandrebel.com

 

One corner of the Unverpackt store in Kiel, Germany. Source: wastelandrebel.com
One corner of the Unverpackt store in Kiel, Germany. Source: wastelandrebel.com

 

Examples of containers that can be purchased by customers to help them do their shopping at Unverpackt Kiel. Source: wastelandrebel.com
Examples of containers that can be purchased by customers to help them do their shopping at Unverpackt Kiel. Source: wastelandrebel.com

Green in British Columbia, Canada: A Bulk Store with Story Behind Each of the Product

The Green bulk store is located on Salt Spring island, British Columbia, north of Vancouver, Canada. The team behind the Green bulk store have a vision to live on what they believe, and they believe that if we invest something good into this earth, then something good will also come out of it  The same principle also applies to our community and people, and that is why the decided to establish and managed a zero-waste store, which also got its suppliers from local farmers, supplier, as well as business owner. The distinguishing feature of this bulk store is how they showcase the profile of the product owners next to their products. Surely this will enable customers to learn the background story or mission that each product contains.

 

Produce bag is one example of containers that can be used in bulk stores. In the picture, the bags are differentiated based on the type of goods. Source: wastelandrebel.com
Produce bag is one example of containers that can be used in bulk stores. In the picture, the bags are differentiated based on the type of goods. Source: wastelandrebel.com
 Examples of how the goods in Green bulk store in British Columbia, Canada is showcased. Source: wastelandrebel.com
Examples of how the goods in Green bulk store in British Columbia, Canada is showcased. Source: wastelandrebel.com

 

Example of how the profile of each product supplier/owner is displayed next to the product. Source: wastelandrebel.com
Example of how the profile of each product supplier/owner is displayed next to the product. Source: wastelandrebel.com

GOODsONLY in Zutphen, Netherlands: Empowering Youths and Used-Goods

The third example of bulk store is located in Zutphen, Netherlands. This store was opened in December 2015, and what’s more is that they empower youth (mostly college/schools dropouts) to learn practical skills that might help them in getting a job, such as making furnitures and shelves to be used in the store. The name of the owner is Marjolijn, and she kept finding ways to further develop her store, such as cooperating with locals business owners to become the store’s supplier.Moreover, he also enjoy interacting with her customers in order to learn more about zero-waste lifestyle.

The outward appearance of GOODsONLY bulk store in Netherland.Source: wastelandrebel.com
The outward appearance of GOODsONLY bulk store in Netherland.Source: wastelandrebel.com

 

Customers who purchased goods using a produce bag. Source: wastelandrebel.com
Customers who purchased goods using a produce bag. Source: wastelandrebel.com

 

 One section of the bulk store that sells vegetables. Source: wastelandrebel.com

One section of the bulk store that sells vegetables. Source: wastelandrebel.com

 

Experience A Less-Waste Shopping at UnPackt, Singapore

Bulk store does not only pops up across Europe and America, but also in the neighboring country, Singapore. Unpackt bulk store is located in a shop house in Sembawang Hills Estate, 6 Jalan Kuras, Singapore 577724. Established in early May 2018 by Florence Tay and Jeff Lam, this bulk store offers a less-waste shopping experience. In addition, the store also sells empty containers for customers who do not yet have their own containers.

Biscuits and snacks that are sold in Unpackt, Singapore.
Biscuits and snacks that are sold in Unpackt, Singapore.

 

The goods that are sold in UnPackt vary from pasta, grains, biscuits, and nuts, to home cleaner products as well as toiletries. They also sell reusable items such as collapsible water bottle and coffee cups.

Florence Tay, the co-owner of  Unpackt bulk store in Singapore
Florence Tay, the co-owner of  Unpackt bulk store in Singapore

Florence, the co-owner of UnPackt, states that the reason behind the establishment of the bulk store is not only to help people start a less waste lifestyle based on their own abilities, but also to emphasize the importance of buying what they need according to their own measurement. Shopping in bulk store means that customers are not strained by the existing packaging sizes like in conventional store, that is why they can determine how much they will need to buy in order to avoid unnecessary waste.  

One corner of the Unpackt Bulk Store in Singapore. Source: littledayout.com
One corner of the Unpackt Bulk Store in Singapore. Source: littledayout.com

What If There Isn’t Any Bulk Store Near Me?

If there is no bulk store near your place, there are still several things that you can do to do your grocery shopping with less waste:

  1. Bring your own shopping bag. That way, you can eliminate any unnecessary plastic bags that too often killed our marine mammals.
  2. Choose packaged with as little waste as possible, such as buying a bottle of shampoo rather than the sachet version. Also, it is better to directly buy 2 kilograms of detergent compared to purchasing 4 detergents with a weight of 500 grams each. Moreover, some supermarkets allow us to buy fruits and vegetables using our own cloth bag instead of the plastic bags that are provided. Even so, make sure that you verify it beforehand, since each supermarket’s policy and regulations may differ from one another.
  3. For plastic packaging or any other waste that are inevitable, what we can do is to segregate waste based on each category. You can read the guidelines on how to segregate waste that has been compiled by Waste4Change in bit.ly/W4CSegregation.
  4. Apart from waste segregation, you can also utilize the responsible waste management services that are offered by Waste4Change. Besides ensuring that our clients’ waste will not end up in landfills through a service called Zero Waste to Landfill (ZWTL), Waste4Change also provides individual waste collection, in which every person can give their segregated waste to be processed by Waste4Change.

Adopting a responsible waste management system is very important, because if we can’t avoid waste from being generated in our daily lives, at least we can make sure that all those waste are managed responsibly.

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